Healing for the Holidays: Adult Stem Cell Research Still Outpaces Embryonic

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 24, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Healing for the Holidays: Adult Stem Cell Research Still Outpaces Embryonic

by Tony Perkins
November 24, 2008

LifeNews.com Note: Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council and a former member of the Louisiana state legislature.

Today we seem to be floating on a tattered raft of bad news, but this is a week for Thanksgiving, and it seems only right to note that for all the trouble we face, we live in the most blessed times in human history.

We have the capacity to feed ourselves and the know-how to feed others, we live longer than any other generation ever (especially if we control the kind of excess that now, rather than want, shortens our lives), and we are able to transmit and share ideas with lightning speed around the world.

Despair and panic, we know, can spread quickly, but so can words of consolation and redemption.

This is also an extraordinary era for medicine. As we count our blessings this week, consider what one field – adult stem cell research and therapy – is accomplishing for human healing:

Liver Repair. Doctors at Imperial College, London, have shown treatment benefits from using adult stem cells collected from the patients’ own blood to treat cirrhosis of the liver. Three of the nine patients treated showed almost complete repair after 12 weeks.

Cerebral Palsy. Duke University scientists have treated a young girl for cerebral palsy using her umbilical cord blood, which the parents had saved. Two months after receiving her own stem cells, the girl is reported to have made a 50 percent recovery.

Windpipe Reconstruction. A Colombian woman whose windpipe was destroyed by tuberculosis received a transplant using donated tissue and her own adult stem cells to form the replacement organ. The international team that conducted the work included scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom and surgeons in Spain. The surgery occurred in June, there is still no rejection of the new tissue, and she can now walk flights of stairs and go dancing.

Clinical Trial to Treat Heart Failure. The University of Utah is enrolling patients in a new clinical trial that uses their own bone marrow adult stem cells to treat two types of heart failure. The trial is the first of its kind for a condition, cardiomyopathy, which is not susceptible to other forms of treatment besides a heart transplant.

Knee Repairs for Ruggers. British scientists have used adult stem cells to develop the equivalent of a "living bandage" that can be applied to difficult-to-treat knee injuries caused by a torn meniscus. This ligament in the knee often suffers damage from sharp twisting motions such as those incurred in rugby and other sports. The adult stem cells are applied to a spongy collagen material and have proven capable of pulling together torn pieces of meniscal tissue.

Heart Valve Construction. German researchers have enjoyed success (not yet used in human trials) in building heart valves using the "scaffolding concept" and adult stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. The scientist in charge of the research noted that the valves might be used to replace defective ones in children, perhaps even growing along with them and allowing them to avoid the multiple surgeries required by traditional valve replacement.

There are over 2,000 FDA-approved clinical trials underway in the U.S. deploying stem cells. All are using adult sources of these tissues. None involve the killing of embryos. Additionally, there are no FDA approved trials for stem cells derived from embryos.

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